Patriotism the Morning After
In an attempt to be patriotic yesterday (July 4), I decided to read the Declaration of Independence. The day after, the last line of the most prized American document still has me thinking. The Declaration concludes, "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." Reading that, I'm left with a question: what place does this powerful entrusting of life, fortune, and honor hold in the spirit of Americanism today?It would appear that the citizens who could most easily relate with such a sentiment would be those in the armed forces since their livelihood is most obviously reliant on their fellow American soldiers. However, is such a complete commitment to our fellow citizens even possible without a perceived threat to us as individuals? In our current American nation (with all its ugly baggage of the last eight years and beyond), can our notions of individual well-being and the collective good be so intimately linked without a pressing outside threat? These are questions I contemplated throughout the day as I watched people cheerfully flaunting red, white, and blue hats, shoes, and shirts, singing Springstein's "Born in the USA" poolside at an afternoon bar-be-cue, and light up celebratory bursts of noise and fire as the explosive unpredictability of Chinese fireworks marked the center of attention.Many say that the country has lost sense of itself as expansion has been the name of the game in American history, and that the resulting modern condition is the lack of a meaningful bond between me the other 300 million. But while there is national body that is hundreds of million in number, I can't help but believe that there is an America also exists in much smaller doses. In order for it to be real in the lives of myself and the rest of the gang, there must be an America that we can walk, drive, and bike over and touch, see, and hear and in some meaningful way, affect, sustain, and create.We each determine how we value our smaller, more tangible America. In contemplating the value we place on our expression of American life, that mutually invested spirit of the Declaration might start to become more fathomable. Because without that spirit, who are we and what is America?